Top Fuel points leader Steve Torrence piloted to victory for the eighth time this season on Sunday afternoon at the sixth annual AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals at Gateway Motorsports Park.
Ron Capps (Funny Car), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock), and LE Tonglet (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were also victorious in their respective categories at the third of six playoff events during the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship.
Torrence powered to victory with a 3.684-second pass at 329.34 in his Capco Contractors/Torrence Racing dragster to take down Doug Kalitta’s 3.698 at 331.28 in his Mac Tools dragster in the final found. Torrence has doubled his career victories this season with a total of 16 Wally trophies with today’s victory.
“We got here by doing what we do all year long and doing it ourselves,” Torrence stated. “We went out and we just took those guys out and put them back in the trailer. We’re leaving here with a bigger points lead and a trophy. You’re going to have to come in here and do everything you can to get every possible point because this thing could come down to one or two points at the end of the season.”
Torrence qualified seventh and took down Shawn Langdon, Leah Pritchett and defending world champion Antron Brown on the way to his 11th final round this season. Kalitta qualified in the No. 2 position and defeated Scott Palmer, Brittany Force and Dom Lagana and as he reached his third finals round of the season.
Capps took down rookie Jonnie Lindberg with a 3.879 pass at 331.53 in his NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger R/T to secure his category-best eighth victory of the season and 58th of his career. He maintains the points lead and continues to pursue back-to-back world championships.
“The toughest cars in the Countdown are the ones that didn’t make the Countdown,” said Capps. “We saw that today with Lindberg and Alexis’ (DeJoria) car. We fear them more so than we do a lot of the Countdown cars because you’re trying to race smart. We’re just trying to get as many points as we can get.”
Capps entered Sunday as the No. 3 qualifier before defeating Jim Campbell, teammate Jack Beckman and 16-time world champion John Force on his way to his 11th final round of the year. Lindberg qualified fifth and was victorious against Tim Wilkerson, Alexis DeJoria and No. 1 qualifier Robert Hight.
In Pro Stock, Anderson drove to victory with a run of 6.571 at 210.73 in his Summit Racing Equipment Chevy Camaro to defeat teammate and defending world champion Jason Line’s 6.545 at 211.26 in the final round. He locked down his third victory of the season and 89th of his career. Anderson took the points lead in the Countdown to the Championship with the victory.
“It’s hard to win out here,” stated Anderson. “I knew I was in deep in the final and knew it was going to take a stroke of luck, to be honest with you, to win it. I’d had a great race car, but didn’t have the total package. It’s been an up and down kind of year, but you have to peak going into the playoffs and obviously I have.”
Anderson was the No. 1 qualifier and continued his strong weekend with victories over Dave River, Larry Morgan, and Brian Self before reaching his 10th final round of 2017. Line earned the third spot in qualifying and defeated Alan Prusiensky, Deric Kramer and Bo Butner on the way to his second final round of the season.
Tonglet rode to the Pro Stock Motorcycle victory with a 6.792 at 197.91 on his Nitro Fish Racing Suzuki to better No. 1 qualifier Andrew Hines on his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson in the finals. He earned his sixth Wally of the season and 16th of his career.
“You’ve just got to stay calm and go rounds,” Tonglet said. “This is make or break for us. We felt that if we lost this race that our Championship hunt was over. We just haven’t been qualifying that great, but Tim (Kulungian, crew chief) figures it out by Sunday and it just hauls butt and we’re able to get round wins.”
Tonglet qualified seventh before taking down Joey Gladstone, Eddie Krawiec, and Matt Smith en route to the finals. Hines bested Andrew Rawlings, Kate Stoffer and Scotty Pollacheck as he finished as the runner-up for only his third final round appearance of the season.
The 2017 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season continues with the AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals at Texas Motorplex in Dallas, Texas on Oct. 12 – Oct. 15.